Category Archives: Climate Change

Why are Skeptics Ridiculed by Society?

Any discussion of our changing climate (aka weather) is by nature somewhat speculative.  I am only a little surprised when tomorrow’s weather is accurately predicted.  When weekly or monthly forecasts prove correct I am impressed.  I expect them to be wrong.

Soooo….answer me this.   Why are people who question the predictions of gloom and doom coming from the global climate community ridiculed by society?

News stories assuming that man caused global climate to change dramatically are everywhere.

  • Today’s paper touted February 2016 as the warmest ever in Alaska
  • Yesterday One news blamed the strong El Nino for floods in Peru
  • Yesterday the Anchorage Dispatch news featured a political cartoon of an argument between person touting global warming and a person noting that it had been warmer 2500 years ago.  The cartoon was drawn to make the skeptic look stupid.
  • Articles are here, there and everywhere calling 2015 the warmest in history for the earth.
  • On Sunday, it was reported that the Arctic Ice cap is at it’s lowest level in history and it stopped growing early this year.  ( A history that is only 40 years old)
  • A month or so ago, I read an article about the recent (last two years)  warmer than anticipated weather.   The article touted climate experts that said climate was again warming rapidly after a 15 year hiatus.  And that it was proof that the UN climate experts were right.

I could go on forever.

We are in the midst of a strong El Nino climate pattern in the Northern Hemisphere.  It has been warmer in 2015 and early 2016 than in the recent past.  2016 is starting out a a bit warmer than 2015.  Interestingly, satellite data and land based temperature data disagree about 2015.  Satellite data is a tiny bit cooler than land based data.  It shows a 13 month  average that is still below the 1998 peak.  If the current El Nino pattern persists, 2016 could be warmer than 2015 or 1998.  Land based data already has 2015 higher than 1998.

https://i2.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_February_2016_v6.png

What happened 50 or 150 or 500 years ago?   How does the current El Nino compare to El Nino patterns in history?  We don’t know.   Study of El Nino is a relatively new science.   Our understanding of it began about 50 years ago as we began to collect better Ocean current and temperature data.  So how did El Nino events impact the climate in the dust bowl era?  Your guess is as good as mine!

Science is a guessing game.  Weather science is a big time guessing game.  And too many of the articles I have read assume Scientists are certain.  Doubters are the fools.  Carbon Dioxide is the culprit and  if we don’t keep it under under control, the world’s climate will  change dramatically.  And if we meet IPCC goals, everything will be just fine.

REALLY!?

How can we really know what is gong to happen to the world climate ecosystem in 50 or 100 or 500 years?   How can we guarantee a small change in a system that changes regularly regardless of what we do or do not do.

And people that have doubts are the bad guys?

I’m one of those guys.  I look at the science and I see lots of guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.   I’m in favor of a cautious approach to greenhouse gas emissions. They might be bad.  Why take the risk.    But then again other things that Scientists aren’t paid to study are likely more important.  Global temperature changes don’t track particularly well to carbon dioxide levels.  It has been argued that carbon dioxide is a following rather than a leading indicator.

One thing is certain, we need to know more.   Lots more.   Something important is being missed or misunderstood.  I see a society that decided what the answer was in 1992 and UN Scientists and their many comrades have been trying to prove it ever since.

The level of confidence displayed by the scientists and the writers is wildly out of place with the science.  This specific science problem has many many variables.   Orbital variations, solar winds, sunspots and even the relative position of continents matter. Climate changes wildly without the assistance of man.  A change of 10 degrees C is common in a single 100,000 year long ice age cycle. It has been lots warmer and lots colder in the last 20,000 years. And in the climate game, 20,000 is a short time period.

It was warmer that it is today just 1000 years ago.  And skeptics are not stupid just because they have a contrary opinion or wonder what will happen when/if  it starts to get cold again.

Sometimes I think about a Mark Twain quotation or three.  All this has gone on before.

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know for sure that just aint so.

and

Get your facts first, then you can distort them any way you please.

and finally

Facts are stubborn things, statistics are pliable.

It’s worth remembering that measuring the average temperature of the Earth is a difficult task full of guessing.  We have very few thermometers in the Southern Hemisphere (only 1 in Antarctica).  The Oceans that absorb heat better than land,  represent most of the Earth’s surface and are underrepresented in any current global climate temperature measurement.  Ocean probes drift with the currents and are not well distributed.  Adjustments are made to temperature measurements to compensate for these shortcomings. Global surface temperature is not a precisely known number.

Was 2015 the warmest ever? NO.  The warmest in the last 100 years?  Well maybe.  How about 100o years?  Unlikely.

Satellite data varies somewhat from surface data.  Satellite data says 2015 was a warm year and 2016 is starting out strong.  2016 might be just a bit warmer than 1998 (another El Nino year) but it might not (according to the Satellite data).  It’s a close call and the data on 2016 has a while to run.

Our collection of Satellite data began in the late 1970’s.  We know the world was warmer than average in the late 1930’s.  And our ability to measure temperature was less sophisticated then than it is today.  We have no idea what went on in Antarctica or in the Oceans back then.   We think it is warmer today than it was back then…but we are not certain.  We were guessing back then and we’re guessing today.

Have a nice day.

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A Three Question Climate Change Knowledge Test

Climate change is a scientific discussion that has been hijacked by political considerations.  Many people have strong opinions about climate change and too many of those opinions are based on political rather than scientific reality.   Politics are here, there and everywhere.  And the UN, a strangely political place, is the recognized world expert.  Need I say more.

With that in mind I have developed a simple 3 question test.  If you already know all the answers, congratulations!

Question 1. —  What is Climate Sensitivity and how does it impact the global climate debate?

Most people have never heard of Climate Sensitivity.  Some will be well aware of the idea, but not know the name.  Others are simply unaware of the arguments.  A general knowledge of how climate sensitivity is used by the global warming doom crowd is important.

Carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas.  Water vapor and methane are strong greenhouse gases.   As carbon dioxide changes in the atmosphere, it is predicted to make changes in other climate variables.   IF the model assumes a high climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide then small changes in carbon dioxide cause big changes in climate.  Low sensitivity produces much less change.   Many UN modelers assume a fairly high carbon dioxide sensitivity.  This high sensitivity leads to “tipping points” and gloom and doom.

Climate models are run by computers. These computers use carbon dioxide as a key input variable.  They then predict temperature years and centuries into the future.   UN approved climate models do not agree with each other.   Models can vary by as much as 5 degrees C by the year 2100.

As time goes by computers get faster, more information becomes available and the models are adjusted.  Predictions made just 10 years ago have proven to be wildly high.  Either the climate sensitivity was too high or … they have failed to properly consider natural climate variation.

Question 2. — What is natural climate variation?

If you don’t get this one right, you’re really not paying attention to the science.

We live in an ice age time.  We have been in an ice age for the last 2.5 million years.  For the last 11,000 years we have been in the Holocene, an oddly steady period of climate history.  Climate during the Holocene has been warm and stable.  Ice cores go back about 700,000 years.  The Holocene is the only climate period during that time that has stayed warm for 11,000 years.   The norm is colder.  Much colder.

Here is a copy of a Vostok Antarctic Ice Corps showing climate variations at the drill site.

This chart starts in the present time and then goes back 400,000 years.  Another widely used chart displays the last 50,000 years of the chart beginning at the oldest with the newest dates at the right:

It’s easy to see the Holocene.  20,000 years ago New York City was covered in ice…and 130,000 years the world was warmer than it is right now.   This wildly changing climate is called natural climate variation.

Now lets look at the last 10,000 years using a Greenland Ice Core:

This chart ends with year 2009.  Man has only been able to influence climate for perhaps 200 years.  Any variations seen before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (the blue on the chart) must, by definition, be something that man did not cause.  Three times in the last 10,000 years it has been more than a degree warmer than it is right now.

What change is natural and what is man caused?  This is one very difficult science problem.

Question 3 — How is electricity stored?

This is a bit of a trick question.  Generally, electricity is not stored.   Power generation is an on demand business.  You turn on the light switch, the utility provides the electricity and the lights go on.  The utility grid has a bit of excess capacity running all the time so that it can maintain a stable grid.

A small amount of electricity is stored in batteries, but batteries are expensive and have manufacturing and disposal problems.  Batteries are not now a viable option.  People are working hard to solve this problem.   But in science, wishing doesn’t make it so.  When the solution is found…we can consider it, but for right now we have to look at what is available today, not what might be there in 10 or 20 years.

Electricity is not stored, any electricity provided must be immediately used by the grid.  Electrical demand varies throughout the day and the electric utility has to vary production to meet that demand.  Demand usually peaks just before sunrise and again in the early evening.  Wind and solar are only available when mother nature feels like it.  Germany, the largest solar power market in the world is so far North that solar provides almost no power in the winter.   Munich, which is in Southern Germany, has the same latitude as International Falls, Minnesota.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases statistics every month on power generation in the USA.  Here is the data for a 12 month rolling average including October 2015.

Coal   Natural Gas    Nuclear    Hydro     Solar     Renewable (inc. wind)

35%         32%              19%           6%           0.6%                          7%

Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal but does create some carbon dioxide when burned.  Hydro and Nuclear are clean (from a carbon dioxide perspective)   All four are unpopular with environmentalists for various reasons and they represent about 92% of all power production.

Wind is the most difficult to predict alternative fuel, and it’s the least reliable.   Places with lots of wind relative to other sources of power have odd things happen from time to time.  When the wind really blows, Germany gets so much power from wind that they have to pay neighboring countries to take the energy.  A US utility made news a few months ago when it gave away electricity during peak wind production.  A  cheap reliable battery network would fix this problem.  Unfortunately none exists right now.

Whenever I encounter a global warming true believer I ask them the same simple question.   What is your opinion on Nuclear Power?  Coal represents 35% of total load now and most environmentalists want that at zero.   Where is that capacity going to come from?   There is only one currently available source that can bridge the gap to a better world with wind, solar and cheap batteries and that choice is Nuclear.

Which of course begs the question.   What do you fear more, Nuclear Power or global warming?  I myself am skeptical about the science that touts global disaster, but they could be right.  On the chance that they might be at least partly right…. I support more Nuclear Energy.  How about You?

 

Old Predictions Make Prejudiced Scientists

On Monday, the Alaska Dispatch News reprinted a Washington Post story by Chris Mooney titled Renowned climate scientist projects rapid rise in sea level, more intense storms The article discusses a research study Dr. James Hansen and 16 of his associates are about to release.  That study predicts gloom and doom even if the UN is successful in controlling climate change. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but is given priority by the Washington Post because as the article states:

It’s an alarming picture of where the planet could be headed — and hard to ignore, given Hansen’s reputation.

Why is it hard to ignore?  Why is gloom and doom by Dr. Hansen news?  Dr. Hansen has been predicting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.  He has been predicting rapid temperature rises and sea level mass destruction since 1982.  His 1988 projections in front of Congress were wrong.  This graph from a Skeptical Science article defending Hansen shows three Hansen predictions.  Scenario A predicted changes with carbon dioxide near current levels: https://i0.wp.com/www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen_1988.gif According to Dr. Hansen, we should be quite a bit warmer.  And I would argue that the black line drawn by Skeptical Science is a bit too aggressive.  Most temperature models show a rapid rise from the 1992 cooling following the  Mt. Pinatubo eruption, to the great El Nino of 1998.  Worldwide temperatures since 1998 have been largely unchanged.  The  Skeptical Science graph makes it look like there is a persistent uptrend that really stopped in 1998.

Climate research sites  UAH, and East Anglia University both show this.   As Skeptical Science said in the article, Dr. Hansen’s models had a too high climate sensitivity. English translation…his predictions were wrong.

Dr. Hansen is not alone, most early models at the IPCC were wildly high  in their predictions.  Climate models have had to be modified to reflect the lack of warming since 1998.   IPCC reports have been toning down the immediate impacts of carbon dioxide (and methane too), using natural climate variation as the reason.

They still think they are right, but natural climate variation appears to be masking the predicted results and their predictions  might take a long time to materialize.  Virtually every temperature based prediction made by the IPCC in the 2007 Climate Change Report was wrong.  The IPCC has now modified their positions to reflect this reality.   Not Dr. Hansen. Back in June of 1988, Dr Hansen is quoted in a New York Times article as saying the following to Congress:

that it was 99% certain that  the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other artificial gasses in the atmosphere.

And in 2007 he had not changed his view one iota as these quotes courtesy of the Steve Goreham website demonstrate:

“…99 percent confiden t that the world really was getting warmer and that there was a high degree of probability that it was due to human-made greenhouse gases.”     —Dr. James Hansen on his 1988 Senate testimony, PBS Frontline, Apr. 24, 2007

Two years later he said:

“The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“Burning all the fossil fuels will destroy the planet we know, Creation, the planet of stable climate in which civilization developed.”     —Dr. James Hansen, letter to Barack and Michelle Obama, Dec. 29, 2008

Back in 1988, we knew much less than we do now and Dr. Hansen was 99% sure he was right.  How could anyone be that sure then or now?   Even the UN is only 90% sure that most warming seen since 1950 is man caused.  Some could be natural climate variation.  This is one extraordinarily difficult science discussion.  A rational person should have more doubt.

Now, Dr. Hansen believes even a modest rise in temperature of less than a degree C will be catastrophic.  I have doubts.  Dr. Hansen is so prejudiced in his view, I doubt he can produce a document that does not display his almost religious zeal on the subject.

Interestingly, the Washington Post decided to use Michael Mann as their independent scientist to discuss this controversial paper presented by Dr. Hansen. Mann would not have been my first choice.

Back in 1998, Dr. Mann produced a paper predicting rapid climate change.  It was the rage of the Climate Community for years. Al Gore used the Hockey Stick Graph as it was called in his film.  In 2005 the study was successfully challenged by Canadian mathematicians.  Dr. Mann has been at the center of a climate fire storm for some 10 years now.

Hansen and Mann share a common problem.  Both made wild predictions in the distant past and must either defend them or admit mistakes.  Neither has been willing to admit errors, and errors were made. Some times I don’t understand journalistic choices.  I cannot think of any duo more shrouded in controversy in Climate Science than Dr. Hansen and Dr. Mann.

All this begs a question – Why did Mr. Mooney give Dr. Hansen such stature and why did he use Dr. Mann as a source confirming the story?

Note to the IPCC — Develop Realistic Goals

The IPCC has a global temperature goal for the World that makes no sense.   The leading “authority” on climate wants to keep the world temperature to less than 2 degrees C higher than it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The Earth has already warmed over a degree C since 1750. This makes the IPCC limit  something less a than 1 degree C from current temperatures.

Natural climate variation makes the goal unattainable in the long run.  At some time in the future, the world will change (probably begin cooling) in  a way the IPCC failed to anticipate.   Nobody can make such a precise temperature guarantee.  Our knowledge of the science is simply too primitive.  And yet the goal is repeated over and over again.  I see references to the goal almost daily.  A goal that is nothing more than a wild ass guess.

We live in an ice age cycle and have been in this cycle for some 2.5 million years.   Average Antarctic temperatures as calculated using ice cores during the last three ice age cycles (about 400,000 years) have varied by about 13 degrees C.  Average Antarctic temperatures have been 8 degrees colder than today, and the coldest place on earth averaged 5 degrees C warmer some 130,000 years ago.  Most of the time it’s colder.

We are living in the Holocene, a 10,000 year period of very stable temperatures.   When one looks at the Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica it is clear that the Holocene is a surprisingly stable time from a temperature perspective.  Nowhere else on the chart does the climate stay stable and warm for 10,000 years.

Now let’s take a peek at a Greenland Ice Core that only goes back about 10,000 years.  This core takes place entirely within the Holocene and covers most of the period.

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/gisp2-ice-core-temperatures.jpg?w=740&h=555

This ice core indicates that we have spent most of the last thousand years in a relatively cool period of the Holocene.   The recent warming has brought us up to the average.  The average temperature for the last 10,000 years in this particular part of Greenland was about the same as it is right now.  The chart stoped some 95 years ago and back then the world was about .7 degrees colder than it is today.   Add that bit back in and were about average for the Holocene.

The world has warmed rapidly, but there are lots of periods along the chart that are more severe.  Yep…wild natural climate variation…in a calm period of the ice age cycle.  Hmmm…..

I’m not a big fan of ice cores because they provide climate for a single location and regional climate varies more wildly than the world as a whole.   But if Greenland has varied by more than 3 degrees C at a time when the entire planet was unusually stable and warm, maybe a 1 degree C goal is for the world includes just a bit of wishful thinking.

Remembering that the world has warmed steadily since the end of the Little Ice Age, let’s look again at recent temperature data provided by East Anglia University in the UK.

gtc graph

Wild annual variation everywhere.  My favorite section…from 1863 to 1878, the world warmed by a bit over half a degree  C in only 15 years.  Warming before 1950 is presumed by the IPCC to be mostly natural variation.  Furthermore, the world warmed by almost .7 degree C between 1912 and 1942, a 30 year period not unlike the period between 1976 and 1998.  Since 1998, the pattern has been unusually stable.  More stable than at any time in the last 175 years.  No single year has varied from the prior year by more than .2 degree C during the last 17 years

One would never guess we are living (since 1998) in a time of relatively stable temperatures.    Reports in the media cast climate change as an accelerating problem.   And they could be right.  Perhaps natural climate variation is masking a disaster in the making?

But the IPCC could be wrong too.  The IPCC has been making temperature predictions since 1992.  The world went along as predicted until 1998, and then it didn’t.  7 years of right, 18 years of wrong.  7 for 25, not bad if your playing baseball.  I expect more from my scientists. When I look at IPCC data, I see guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.

Problems are here, there, everywhere in the climate game.  Guessing is a part of the scientific process.  And guessing is everywhere as scientists attempt to predict future climate.  Carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in a really long time, and man probably plays a significant part in that impact.  But it is not the only input required in any attempt to predict future climate based on the past.

We have difficulty accurately measuring the Earth’s temperature both right now and in the past.  Arguments persist about volcanic impacts.  Sudden changes in the Earth’s magnetic field might matter.  Some think solar winds are important. The World was dramatically changed when Antarctica and South America became separate continents some 23 million years ago.

We know solar output varies and some suspect sunspot activity might matter.   Ice ages are presumed to be impacted by the location of the continents and by variations in the Earth’s orbit.   Land near the poles makes the world colder than when most land is near the equator is it was 50 million years ago.  The shape of the the earth’s orbit varies, as does it’s tilt.  And the earth wobbles too.  All 3 orbital variations are presumed to impact climate.

I suspect the IPCC is simply playing politics.  They need the problem to be immediate and urgent in order to secure funding.   And they know that our society lacks the political will to do what they say needs to be done.  If something bad happens, they can say I told you so.  If nothing happens they can blame natural climate variation.   And as long as the problem persists in the minds of the population, they continue to get funding!

The IPCC cannot afford to tell you the truth. It might impact funding.

THIS TRUTH —   The  scientific community is confident that man is impacting climate.  That impact is extraordinarily difficult to quantify,  measure,  or predict   When scientists use computer models they are guessing.  The models are not as precise as they should be and change wildly as new information come to life.   There is much we still do not know. The entire process is strongly influenced by  politics and economics . We all share the planet together.  We have a shared responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.  Society should act in a cautious manner because it might be important.

Gloom and doom sells newspapers and provides funding, but does little to advance the science.  I wish those that advocate climate change science in it’s current form were just a bit more circumspect and a bit less confident they are right.   Until I see some healthy skepticism from within the advocate community, I will remain skeptical.

Volcanoes and Antarctic Ice Cores

My last post argued that Antarctic Ice Cores are poor proxies for world climate.  They do not show short term changes.  Changes take centuries to develop in ice cores.  Sudden changes that last for a few years or even hundreds of years can be completely missed by ice cores.   Things like…say…a sudden spike in carbon dioxide levels following a volcanic eruption.

Ice cores provide general information about the world of the past…but it is just that…general information. This post will use one single event, the Toba super volcano eruption to accentuate the point.

https://i2.wp.com/castle-kaneloon.tripod.com/images/Lake-toba.jpg

Lake Toba is a large lake in Indonesia.  The lake is 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide.  About 74,000 years ago it was the center of a super volcano eruption.  The caldera of this much studied volcanic event encompassed the entire lake and surrounding territory…

This eruption was a really big deal.  It almost wiped out mankind.   This eruption was such an extraordinary event, it is difficult for me to comprehend exactly how big it was.

Scientists measure volcanic eruptions using the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI.   The total volume of material expectorated by the volcano is estimated.  Small volcanic eruptions are VEI1, super volcanoes are VEI8.  The following chart helps me get a sense of the size of the various events. I like this chart because it includes the 3 most recent events I like to use to get perspective, Mt. St. Helens, Pinatubo and Tambora.   The St. Helens explosive eruption of 1980 was a relatively small event.  Yep a small event.  Pinatubo was about 10 times larger and it was big enough to change temperatures worldwide for 2 years. Tambora is the most recent VEI7 event and was some 10 times larger than Pinatubo.  Tambora began erupting on April 5, 1815.  The eruption could be heard over a 1000 miles away.   1816 was nicknamed the year without a summer.

Tambora was a big deal.  The biggest in recent history. Toba was a VEI8 event some 28 times bigger than Tambora.

Imagine if you can what that must have been like.  It was so cold and so dark that that man almost didn’t survive the event. NOW let’s take a peek at the Vostok Antarctic Ice Core.   I have selected a graph that blows up the period from 50,000 years ago  to 100,000 years ago. I see a very small dip some 74,000 years ago.  A dip of perhaps half a  degree C with virtually no change in carbon dioxide levels.  Carbon dioxide levels spiked during the eruption, particulate matter would have stayed in the atmosphere for centuries.  Temperatures all over the world would have dropped dramatically.  Temperatures are supposed to have dropped 3 to 5 degrees C and the event is supposed to have changed global climate for 1000 years.

The chart is full of bigger moves.  Bigger than a VEI8 event?  What natural event could that be?  About 4000 years before the event there is a sudden fall of about 3 degrees C in a very short period of time.  I wonder what caused that?

When I look at ice cores and think about super volcanic events I feel better about the world.   If the world can survive a Toba event and recover…maybe the gloom and doom being spouted at UN climate meetings is a bit overdone?

Common Temperature Mistakes

Any discussion of climate change begins and ends with a discussion of temperature.  A Bloomberg article titled Holding Back Climate Change Isn’t as Hard as You Think is a typical example.  Apparently the International Energy Agency has looked at recent trends in energy use and is encouraged.  The third paragraph states the following:

Pledges already put forward for the Paris conference, including by the U.S., European Union and China, could hold temperature increases to 2.6 degrees Celsius. That’s significantly less of an overshoot than the 3.6-degree long-term gain in the IEA’s main scenario issued in November. The United Nations is trying to hold the increase to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

The article goes on to say that countries all over the world are becoming more energy efficient and are replacing coal fired power production with natural gas.

The article is a refreshing change from the gloom and doom normally spouted…but it makes the exact same group of mistakes most articles on climate make.

Mistake 1

Climate is not a static system.  Global temperatures changes wildly and in unpredictable ways.   The UN climate experts continue to make specific predictions even as they admit that background natural climate variation makes specific temperature prediction difficult.    This UK’s East Anglia University temperature chart illustrates the point:

http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/documents/421974/487107/gtc_feb2015.gif/1abb0fcd-aecc-4cc3-ac4c-b6ea634379ea?t=1424695677621

UN experts insist that the change between 1910 and 1940 was natural climate variation, and that the change between 1976 and 1998 was mostly man caused.   Change since 1998 has been less than predicted by the UN.  The most recent UN Synopses Report blames natural climate variation for the lack of predicted change since 1998.

How can anyone guarantee any specific temperature in such a dynamic system?

Mistake 2

Climate experts do not make specific climate recommendations.  They make predictions using probabilities from computer models.   These models are not precise.  They routinely have a range of values as figure 3.2 from the 2007 UN report demonstrates.

https://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig3-2.jpg

Working from left to right, the chart begins with a graph of the midpoint temperature change predicted by 2100 for four of the six different scenarios considered in the report.  Next to the graph is a bar chart with the six scenarios considered by the report (labeled B1 to A1F1).  Next to that are worldwide temperature graphics of three scenarios.

Let’s zoom in on the middle part of the image, the bar chart. The shaded area of the bar chart graphically demonstrates the range of values different computer models provide for the same scenario.  The bar charts are constructed to include 90% of the computer models run in the study.  One in ten computer models falls outside the bar graph.

News reports routinely report a single number.  There is no single number.

Mistake 3

The UN is not trying to keep temperatures to a 2 degrees C rise, they are trying to keep the rise from current levels to less than a degree.   The article simply quotes the UN stated goal incorrectly.   The UN stated goal is to keep temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees C since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution began as the Little Ice Age was ending.  It was a particularly cool period of recent history.

The UN chose to start their calculating at this opportune time and nobody seems to care that the premier world climate agency is cherry picking data.  The UN has often stated that most warming before 1950 was natural climate variation. Why add more than 1 degree C of natural climate variation to the total?  It seems an odd convolution of the arithmetic.

Why the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made such a prediction is anybodies guess.  In a world where a volcanic eruption can cause a 2 degree C shift in a single year,  the IPCC’s goal of 2 degrees C since the Industrial Revolution has always been unrealistic and unattainable.

Mistake 4

Accurately calculating the correct historical temperature is very difficult.  Satellite data only exists for 35 years.  Data on the Oceans is spotty and new with the best data beginning in the 1990’s.  We have only a single data point for all of Antarctica.

Direct data in any form is only 200 years old and the best data has been gathered since the 1990’s.  As predictions go back in time the data gets more and more approximate.  We have general ideas about what the climate was like 10,000 years ago (similar to today), 20,000 years ago (much colder than today — think ice sheets in New York City) or 130,000 years ago when we think it was quite a bit warmer than it is right now.  That information is much less precise than the mass of data being produced every day in the 21st century.

The approximate nature of old data makes small changes over short periods of time difficult to calculate or predict.

Data over 200 years old is indirect data using tree rings, soil bores and ice cores and other indirect and anecdotal evidence.  This indirect data is both regional and has a small sample size which means it is difficult to make precise predictions about the climate of just a few thousand years ago.

Ice cores provide long term data for a single specific location in the coldest place on earth.   Trying to predict climate in New York City some 500,000 years ago based on a the temperature in a single ice core in Antarctica is much less accurate than reading a thermometer.

Regional climate varies wildly and is not a good proxy for worldwide climate.  Most anecdotal evidence is made up of proxies for regional climates.  Small changes to the world climate ecosystem in years gone by will almost certainly be missed.  It is difficult to tell how important today variations are, given the poor historical data sets.  Maybe the climate we are seeing is extraordinary, maybe it’s all happened before?

And the data interpretation keeps changing!

Just a few days ago NOAA announced that they had found errors in recent temperature calculations that help explain the less warm than predicted climate these last 15 years.  Other climate groups are less sure, choosing to take a wait an see attitude. Perhaps they remember other climate missteps (Climate-gate or the Mann Hockey Stick Graph).

Just about every article using temperature data ignores the limitations the science faces.  Specific numbers are used in a world full of approximations and guesses.

And so it goes

USA isn’t Number 1 in Carbon Emissions

This morning I decided to look up some recent carbon dioxide production statistics.  I performed a Google search and selected the Natural Resources Defense Council website, which came up first on the search (and you wondered how Google made money).  The site was chock full of climate propaganda and half truths.  I selected the following question from their website:

Q:  What country is the largest source of global warming pollution?

A:  The United States. Though Americans make up just 4 percent of the world’s population, we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning — by far the largest share of any country. In fact, the United States emits more carbon dioxide than China, India and Japan, combined. Clearly America ought to take a leadership role in solving the problem. And as the world’s top developer of new technologies, we are well positioned to do so — we already have the know-how.

Al Gore used similar data in his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth. 

Both Al and the Environmental lobby are wrong.  Big Surprise!  They must be using ancient data.  The data used by Mr. Gore  in his 2006 released film has a 1999 copyright date.  Data takes time to compile.  I’d guess the actual data was probably produced using data form the mid 1990’s.   2014 data is now available .

I wish the Natural Resource Defense Council had spent a bit more on content  editing and a bit less on online advertising.

The Statistica website has  data from 2014.  Their data shows the USA is second place with 14.7% of total manmade carbon dioxide production.  China leads and has led the country chart since 2006.  Their 2014 share was 23.4%, a number that has been steadily rising for over 20 years.  India, another rapid grower sits in third position with 5.7%, followed by Russia (4.9%), Brazil (4.7.%), Japan(3.6%), Indonesia (2.31%), Germany (2.23%) and Korea (1.71%).

Why did Al Gore use old statistics in 2006 when he made his film and why does the USA’s largest environmental lobby still use 20 year old data today?   Because it works as a fundraising tool.  Potential givers want  to feel important. China (and India too) have the ability to overwhelm the mathematics.  Why give.  We in the USA are powerless to impact the autocracy that is China.

I’d argue the data doesn’t begin to tell the full story.   Population density, location and GDP all must also be considered.  China and the USA are about the same size, but China has 4 times as many people and produces less than 50% of the goods the USA produces.  All those people with middle class desires.  Urbanization will lead to additional carbon production.  Throw in GDP differences and China looks more and more like the Elephant in the room nobody talks about

China is a bit closer to the equator than the USA, which means they need to use less energy to keep warm.   The USA has been reducing  their carbon footprint steadily since about 2000.  China continues to grow theirs at nearly 8% per year.

India is another rapid grower and that has the potential to be a perplexing problem for the climate control crowd.   India is about 1/3 the size of the USA and produces a bit more than 1/3 of the USA’s total carbon dioxide.   Their population is still growing rapidly which means that their carbon production will grow rapidly unless they can use much less on a per capita basis.   Their current per capita use is rising from a very low level which means that India has a long runway of increased carbon production in front of them.

China’s impact is huge.  India’s is growing rapidly.  The USA’s potential climate impact (if you trust the UN scientists) has been declining for most of the 21st century.  Who knows what will happen next.  Any notion that we in the USA can change the world with rather modest  changes at home seems a bit fanciful.

Perhaps the guys at the UN are wrong.  Their temperature predictions for the first 15 years of the 21st century have been awful.  The world has been colder than predicted.  Yes surface data shows 2014 as being a warm year.  Satellite data disagrees; and both land based and satellite data are lower than UN predictions made just a few years ago.  Perhaps increased carbon dioxide won’t be as damaging as advertised.

China’s growth rate is slowing and they are building a bunch of new Nuclear Power Plants which should slow their emissions growth rate in the 2020’s.   Maybe the elephant in the room will move more carefully a few years from now.

Time will tell.